Column: Storm water fees must be reasonable

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, is proposing a substantial change in the way storm water fee is charged. So far, its proposal has met with resistance. Its initial proposal was too much and could chase business away from Kansas City, Kansas. Its alternate proposal is still too much and does not allow adequate credits for those who have spent a substantial amount of money to control storm water runoff.

Another issue with the proposal concerns rates for nonprofit organizations including public schools, churches, social service organizations and Kansas City Kansas Community College. Such organizations could be forced to increase their budgets or cut their services.

I agree that the present collection system in which water customers of the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utilities pay a flat rate of $4.50 a month, regardless of the size of their property, is unfair. The Unified Government’s initial proposal would charge a typical residential property $5.90 a month; a nonresidential property would pay $49.50 monthly.

Several businesses in the Village West area have invested substantial amounts in their infrastructure including enhancements such as very costly retention ponds. Such businesses should receive equitable credits toward their storm water fees. A specific fee schedule for such credits should be developed.

The Unified Government may call this a fee. A fee, by any other name, is still a tax. Businesses are already hit with very expensive property tax.

Areas in the older parts of Kansas City, Kansas, such as Armourdale, Central Avenue and Argentine, have been hampered because storm water mixes with sewer water. Unfortunately, for many years, city officials allowed development in these low-lying flood-prone areas. Despite bad judgment that allowed development in these areas, it makes sense to address serious problems in these areas first.

The Unified Government currently collects about $3.4 million annually for storm water; the initial proposal called for an annual increase to $16 million. That amount was too high. A more reasonable amount would be more palatable for the already burdened taxpayer.

The Unified Commissioners will hold informational meetings on this issue from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 25, at the Neighborhood Resource Center, 4953 State Ave; Oct. 9 at the Kane Community Center, 3130 N. 122nd St.; Oct. 23 at the Amayo Argentine Community Center, 2810 Metropolitan Ave; and Nov. 6 at the Beatrice Lee Community Center, 1310 N. Tenth St. Those concerned about the issue should attend at least one of these meetings.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

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